UPDATE: Four Gannett Papers React to Sale to GateHouse

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Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, is selling four of its 90 U.S.-based dailies to New York-based GateHouse Media Inc. for $410 million. They include The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va., with a circulation of 30,000; the Rockford Register Star, a 65,000-circulation daily in Illinois; the Observer-Dispatch in Utica, N.Y, a 43,000-circulation daily; and the Norwich Bulletin, a 26,000-circulation daily in Connecticut.

“From what we know of GateHouse, there is a strong commitment to local news, which has been our focus as well,” Herald-Dispatch Executive Editor Ed Dawson said Thursday. “We will continue to cover the community as thoroughly as always and will be there on your doorstep each morning.”

The newspapers will be among the largest in the GateHouse chain, which includes 84 daily papers in 19 states.

Gannett Midwest Group President Mary Stier and Register Star President and Publisher Fritz Jacobi told employees at the Rockford paper that their jobs are safe and salaries won’t change as part of the transition. Jacobi will stay on as president and publisher, the Register Star reported on its Web site, and he said other executives also would remain with the publication.

Gannett has owned the Norwich Bulletin since 1980. The Bulletin reported Thursday that Ellen L. Lind will remain as president and publisher and all Bulletin employees will be hired by GateHouse. Lind said GateHouse’s base is small daily community newspapers and community weeklies, making the Bulletin a smart fit with the company.

“I’m very excited about this. It’s a very positive thing,” Lind said.

On Wednesday, Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse closed on a $380 million acquisition of nine newspapers from Copley Press Inc. that had a combined circulation of 241,000.

Gannett, which also publishes USA Today, said the sale fits with the company’s strategic plan, which favors regional clusters of newspapers.

The sale is expected to close at the end of the month.

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